Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog


CHRISTMAS IN AMERICA

CHRISTMAS IN AMERICA

This following article appears in the Beasley’s Christmas Party student study guide.

Photo by Tara Bradford

Christmas has become a melting pot of traditions from different cultures that mirrors the diversity of American society. American.gov states that “most Americans blend religious and secular customs with their own family traditions, often incorporating food, decorations and rituals from places they or their ancestors once called home.”

In colonial Massachusetts, the Puritans were as strict in their interpretation of the holiday as they were in all other things – even going as far as making the observation of the day illegal in 1659. South of New England, however other British colonies were enjoying the beginnings of what would later become the American Christmas spirit.

The Christmas tree is an iconic symbol of Christmas but the tradition was borrowed from the wave of German immigrants who settled throughout the sprawling young nation. Beginning in the 16th century, the tradition allegedly descended from leader of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, when he lit candles on a tree in his home to show his children the wonder of God. Today, millions of American households have these trees as a quintessential element of the holiday, where people gather around together as a family to open and receive gifts. Even though it is a religious celebration the United States recognizes Christmas as a national holiday because of its mass influence on culture and society as a whole.

The current depiction of Santa Claus as a lovable jolly old man who travels on a sleigh pulled by reindeers to deliver presents around the world, is derived from earlier myths of the Dutch Sinter Klaas and the German Saint Nicholas.

Combined with the growing prevalence of minorities, Christmas has combined with two other winter holidays, Hanukah and Kwanza, to create an economical and cultural holiday season that begins after Thanksgiving and ends at the start of the New Year. During this time, not only are people inclined to share in the prevalent commercialism but also in the greater social theme of kindness and charity that is echoed in numerous beloved Christmas films, programs and songs.

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